Hi Folks! I sent this to our Prime minister
And in vain await a reply!
The Prime Minister invited views about what it is to be British, hence this essay.
What it is to be British in 2011
What it is to be British depends very much upon how long one has been British! In 1936, the year I was born, for me there were no doubts about this matter because I was born into a white working class English family each member of which regarded their selves and their forefathers firstly as English and secondly as British. Similarly the Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish folks regarded their selves firstly as Scottish, or Welsh, or Northern Irish and British second. All of the fore-going I will refer to as native Britons. At that time to see someone whose skin was not white was a rare and novel experience indeed. Employees were required to say "Sir" to their bosses, and bosses referred to their employees by surname only. We could name it "The pre-war keep your place syndrome"
Three years later at the outbreak of World War Two, and for the next few war-torn years, these local distinctions blurred when as native Britons, nationally we all closed ranks to face a common foe, and as an evacuee infant schoolchild my war effort consisted during school morning assembly of singing, "What can I do for England that has done so much for me?"
When the war ended and as the warm camaraderie of shared perils quickly evaporated I recall the general atmosphere of greyness that followed with post-war rationing and shortages everywhere in the UK. The war had caused the tragic deaths of many British service men and this led to a dearth of employees to fill the huge numbers of post-war job vacancies throughout the land. Employers had no choice but to compete with each other to offer better wages and conditions of work, and to even adopt the previously unheard of custom of using their employees' Christian names. The effect of all this on the trade union led workforce was to become convinced that this beneficial situation could never change, which of course it has done for the worse time and time again since.
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